Sometimes, the audiovisual medium says much more than mere words. I present a few short foreign films for your viewing pleasure, loosely based on soccer, but much more focused on tragedy and comedy. Analysis included, free of charge.
Heat up the microwave. Grab a bowl of popcorn. And tissue paper.
First, “Le Pass do La Morte.”
Obviously, the above video brings to mind Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Like 8 1/2, this brief feature clearly contemplates the frailty of life, the specter of death, and the thin lines between love and hate, success and failure. When Valdes passes to the other team, it parallels the erotic, masochistic impulses of Guido Anselmi, the self-harming and despondent director/protagonist of 8 1/2.
Briefly, Valdes attempts to atone for his error and steps off his line. However, after a few steps, he realized the futility of his attempt. He recalls and yearns for the warm, safe, free-of-harm womb. He is lobbed. The image is all the more powerful because we, the audience, come to this realization a half-second before Valdes, the hero. We are unsure how to recall: Fellini claims the film was comical. He doesn’t say to who: fatalists.
Second, “Le Drib-el do La Morte”
This film is perhaps the darkest yet most optimistic of the bunch. It deals with a classic Sartre duality: the gift of life is also, cursedly, the gift of death. The movie evokes Ingmar Berman’s classic “The Seventh Seal.” Instead of playing chess with death, Valdes tap dances with a malnourished skeleton. Predictably, inevitably, tritely, originally, the tango turns fatal. Victor clasps for one last chance, but ultimately grasps at air. You can delay death, but only by a few stops. We all ride on the same train track and there’s no changing the ultimate destination.
Third, “Le Pass do La Morte Deux.”
Sequels. They’re incredibly easy to look down your nose at. Still, on a gut level, “Le Pass do La Morte Deux” hits the mark. Despite the lack of critical acclaim, Valdes convincingly portrays a victim of a fate that is cruel yet indecisive. In that regards, this feature harks to another art house film that flew under the radar: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: the Secret of the Ooze. Just as Michael Pressman’s deeply introspective masterpiece juxtaposed characters as themes – Splinter/Wisdom, Leonardo/Decisiveness, Shredder/Evil, Tokka/Giant Mutant Turtle, Rahzar/Giant Mutant Wolf – Le Pass Deux introduces the now ubiquitous associations of Busquets/Clumsy Centerback, Benzema/Death.
At the start, Valdes searches, searches, searches. But for what? A companion. Companionship. However, he chooses poorly. Instead of immediately punishing his poor choice, cruel fate teases, pokes, prods, and prolongs his suffering. Finally, when death (Benzema) appears, we are glad to finally see Valdes put out of his misery. The protagonist upon whom he project empathy at the start ends up as an object to be discarded. We wonder. Do we ourselves await a similar fate?
Obviously, film scholars have long debated the “take away” from this trilogy. On a stylistic level, comedy blurs into tragedy and vice versa. Should we laugh? Should we cry? Both? Neither? Rather than reflect a black/white moral universe, the films feature neither a hero nor an anti-hero, but rather a non-hero. As he struggles against a mighty fate, we wonder – could Jose Pinto really be that bad?